What is Sick Building Syndrome?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a common worldwide health concern, where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or become infected with chronic disease from the building they work in or reside in.

“SBS is also used interchangeably with “building-related symptoms”, which orients the name of the condition around patients symptoms rather than a “sick” building. A 1984 World Health Organization (WHO) report suggested up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be subject of complaints related to poor indoor air quality.” [1]

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a recognition that there can be unhealthy built environment issues, from poor indoor air quality and VOC’s to toxic chemicals and building materials that can cause illness.

The WHO has classified the reported symptoms into broad categories, including: mucous membrane irritation (eye, nose, and throat irritation), neurotoxic effects (headaches, fatigue, and irritability), asthma and asthma-like symptoms (chest tightness and wheezing), skin dryness and irritation, gastrointestinal complaints and more.[2] In the 1990s “sick buildings” were contrasted against “healthy buildings”. [3]

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

Architectural Medicine has a very important connection to healthy building, and the physical component of health in the built environment. The topic of Sick Building Syndrome may not be in as common use as it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s, yet there are still many building issues related to health that still need to be properly addressed. And perhaps in today’s day and age, an even larger percent of people being are being negatively  impacted by the built environment due to an increase in the amount of time spent indoors.

The fact that there are no systems in place in either the Architecture or Medical fields to include this in the evaluation process, such as the inclusion of a Healthy Building Inspector, is just another reason why Architectural Medicine considers this a critical topic for the future. This, combined with the work of an Architectural Doctor, can help provide better health evaluations relative to the built environment.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

From Wikipedia: In the late 1970s, it was noted that nonspecific symptoms were reported by tenants in newly constructed homes, offices, and nurseries. In media it was called “office illness”. The term “sick building syndrome” was coined by the WHO in 1986, when they also estimated that 10–30% of newly built office buildings in the West had indoor air problems. Early Danish and British studies reported symptoms.

“In the 1990s, therefore, extensive research into “sick building” was carried out. Various physical and chemical factors in the buildings were examined on a broad front.” [4]

5. Resources: